Local heroes receive citations: Police, citizens lauded for actions

MIDDLEBURY — Two local police officers and three citizens took a much-deserved bow on Monday for heroic actions they took during two recent disasters — one a home fire on Murdock Court, the other a small airplane crash near the Middlebury State Airport. Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley conferred honors on the five individuals at the Middlebury selectboard meeting.
Receiving Distinguished Service Medals were Middlebury Police Officers Bill Austin and Kevin Emilio, for their actions during a Dec. 14 house fire at 7 Murdock Court that ultimately claimed the life of resident Robert W. Kellogg, 95. Though the house was engulfed in flames, the officers entered the abode — without regard for their personal safety — in an effort to find Kellogg, before the fire pushed them back.
Receiving the Civilian Service Award were Tara Ploof, Perley Jerome and Joshua Parks. The three were at Airport Auto when a small aircraft — piloted by Paul Douglas Bessler, 42, of Crown Point, N.Y. — crashed near their location on Schoolhouse Hill Road back on Dec. 23.
Perley ran to the crash site to locate the pilot in the wreckage. He was soon joined by Parks. They cut the pilot’s seatbelt and removed him from the downed plane, which seconds later burst into flames.
Ploof performed CPR on the pilot until emergency medical officials arrived. Tragically, Bessler died as a result of his injuries.
“This is an example of the kind of work being done and commitment to civil service that we see every day,” Chief Hanley said. Each honoree received a standing ovation from the selectboard and audience members, which included family and friends.
Selectman Nick Artim gave some special heartfelt words of thanks to the three civilian Good Samaritans.
“Paul Bessler was a friend of mine,” Artim said. “The fact that three of you made a gallant attempt to save the life of a friend, means a lot.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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